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Make Authentic Connections

As I was walking out of a coffee shop the other week I met a fellow who overheard some of what I was talking about with a life coach I had been meeting with at the time. He asked me if we could exchange phone numbers after a brief conversation and if we could get coffee at a later date. He seemed interesting, so we did.

Today I sit in Ferris, thinking about our meeting after he had left. It followed a similar format that another meeting with network marketing fellow I had met with previously followed. I thought, perhaps I should think through the communication principles at play and ask myself how I’m applying these rules in my relationships and meeting people.

Why is this important? Because I believe relationships are foundational and one of the most important things in life, and in order to form relationships with people I first must connect with them and introduce myself. I must earn their trust and learn to hear their stories.

Reflecting upon my time talking with my friend and a few communication principles I learned in school, I believe the process can be broken down into a few simple steps.

  1. Open Small. When meeting someone for the first time or spending time with them establishing that initial connection is about creating trust by showing them that you have things in common. To do this I will make comments on their appearance, simple things I can see, that I like or ask them questions about to get people talking about ‘things’ instead of themselves (starting off talking about the other person can come off too strong). The goal of any connection is to keep the conversation flowing – think about a pump that must be primed to get the water flowing, but if the water stops you need to prime it again. Keep things flowing smooth, build common ground, be interested, and take the time -don’t rush this (15-20 minutes). Ask questions you can build off of and start with obvious points that allow them to share more. Most importantly, questions that are open-ended.
    • “How did you get into biking?”
    • “What brought you to the area?”
    • “I like your watch/shirt/those are some cool shoes.”
    • “What do you like to do with your free time.”
  2. Tight Rope Transitions: after building an initial connection and moving through the outer circle of “interests” which are outside individuals, transition to asking questions that are focused more on the edge of the individual, safe/ common questions about family, work, what they enjoy doing in their personal time, their values, goals, what they like to read/do with their spare time. Ask specific questions with your goal in mind (ex: to form a connection with this person so that we can influence one another and both grow toward our plans and become successful in what we do). Use labels with emotions and interests to continue building the commonality while turning the focus inward.
    • “It seems like you and I are on the same page about the importance of leadership.”
    • “It sounds like mentorship is important to you, here’s how mentorship has been influential in my life.”
    • “Your goal to be able to have time to yourself to do what you love is similar to the reason I’m doing  this.”
  3. Book it: After working through the interpersonal region of the other we begin the process of getting to the meat and potatoes – explicitly discuss your goal with the other person now… but don’t fill in all the details, leave some uncertainty because they will want to clarify that in the future, it leaves a sort of social itch/creates interest and a reason to meet again in the future. In this region it’s important to use reciprocity to continue the sharing, just make sure to direct the conversation back to the person across from you… The goal of this point is to hear their story, values, interest, lifestyle, and who they want to be. This will help you have a strong close.
    • “It sounds like you really value relationships”
    • “I’m interested in learning about your story so that we can really connect”
    • “What lifestyle do you want to live?”

Finish strong. Now that you’re where you’re at and you come to the difficult part of the conversation where you ask for something in return for giving the other person what they need. Get the appointment or pitch your idea, focus on providing value for the other person. If you do not focus on providing value, you will likely fail to inspire the change/need within the other person that’s necessary to move forward. My friend sold me to take the next step by authentically connecting with me, he provided a book for me to read which will introduce/help me understand his goal. It serves the purpose of educating me while saving the time of him teaching me these concepts.



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I Believe

We all have things we believe and hold to be true. Those beliefs affect us in a huge way, every day… but what are those beliefs? What do you hold to be true? Here are some of the things that I believe.

I believe in loving everyone, no matter who they are

I believe in leadership and the empowerment it brings

I believe communication is the key to creating understanding and connecting with others in a meaningful way.

I believe in the value of balance

I believe in a healthy lifestyle where the outdoors I a part of a your diet

I believe traveling opens your mind to growth

I believe in honesty

I believe everyone needs friends

I believe in striving for growth constantly

I believe that being vulnerable opens hearts to change

I believe that trials can strengthen you

I believe the hardest things in life can be the most worth doing

I believe Jesus is my savior

I believe a life lived examined is not worth living

Reflecting upon what we believe and then asking why we believe is a powerful thing worth your time.


Fear Drives Us Away From What We Love

We all have our fears. Whether it’s being rejected for who we truly are, failing to meet expectations, or being afraid that you will never be able to accomplish your dreams… we all have something we are afraid of. What are you afraid of?


Being willing to put yourself out there—to be fully known—is hard. When we open up and let someone see who you truly are we open give people the opportunity to accept or reject us. This means being real and not putting up walls. That’s hard. Really hard. It’s so much easier to preempt the possibility of rejection by not allowing people to see who you truly are or to place certain limits on the relationship to keep yourself safe. We tend to do this because of past experiences at times.

Your past.

Maybe you have already experienced the harsh rejection and feelings of immense failure because of a past relationship or risk you had taken. Maybe you actually tried for that position but weren’t even considered. Maybe that special someone broke your heart by telling you they didn’t really care about you and were just using you. You just can’t bare the thought of going through something that painful again.


Maybe you love your job so much that you’re afraid to take risks which might result in you losing your position.
Maybe you care too much about a relationship and are stifling the other person because you are anxious and afraid that you will lose them.
Maybe you are afraid that your values might change and you will lose something that was once important to you; what if you lose a part of who you are? Identity is something many of struggle with when we are afraid of losing something, because often we build ourselves (who we are) on our past accomplishments, who we hang out with, and what we do. When things change we might lose who we are, and that can be downright terrifying.


Sometimes if we feel that if things don’t work out that something is wrong with us. We don’t want to accept that so we don’t even bother taking a risk. When things get serious, we back down and step away from the challenge. When it comes to relationships people jump ship before it has started taking on water. It’s much easier to walk away knowing that we have not failed because we have not tried rather than to accept the idea of trying.


Life is unpredictable certainty is something that is hard to come by. When something or someone begins to encroach on our plans it can feel suffocating and make us feel like we don’t have the space we need to be ourselves. We feel like we’re losing control and we don’t have the power to do what we want. This feeling can leave us crushed feeling like we cannot meet our needs and accomplish our goals.

So what?

What do all these fears have in common? Self-fulfilling prophesy, “If you believe it is happening/going to happen, you will react in a way that will cause it to happen…

Relationships are often cyclical in behavior:
When somebody pushes for more distance, the other person usually attempts to close the gap to reassure themselves of the relationship.
When you fear that your past will repeat itself you begin to treat the other person as if it already has happened.
When you are afraid of rejection, you will come off less confident and are more likely to be rejected.
If you are afraid of losing something, you probably wont take the necessary risks and it will be lost.

If you live by fear, you will find yourself in the passenger seat of life heading to a destination you don’t want to go—it doesn’t have to be that way.

There is hope.

In the same way Self-fulfilling prophecy can work against you; if you believe that something good will happen you will respond in a way that will encourage it to happen.
Live your life seeing possibility and hope there is no need for fear. Sure, everything won’t go according to plan, but things can be better when you believe that things will be different this time.

Trust people and let them get to know you for who you truly are and you will find people who accept you for your authenticity.
Give people the space they need and see that they will respect you and want to keep the relationship
Take those risks and you’ll be able to live life to the fullest.
Accept that sometimes you lose people and parts of who you are, and that’s okay.
Understand that your past is in the past and whatever you strive for is what you can have.

There will be times we all experience fear, just remind yourself the truth that fear is there to encourage you to reflect on the decision you are going to make. Just don’t let fear make the decision for you.

In all things and pray for wisdom and comfort.

God is big enough to handle all of this (and more.)

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What Valentines Should Be About

Today is valentines day.

A day to recognize the significance and importance of any and all relationships, both present and past.
A time to reflect on those who have made an impact and let them know the significance of impact they have had in your life. Many people often single out a spouse, fiance, significant other, or best friend, but today is about more than just one person—today is about a multitude of people.

Today is about showing gratitude to those who support you (both past and present). Valentines day is about telling your family how much you love and appreciate them being there for you when you failed a college course or lost somebody you love. It’s about their support when you learned to fly, leaving the nest and jumping off into the air of possibility when your wings were not yet strong enough to carry you; you fell to the ground. Your delicate dreams may have been shattered and broken, knocked from the pedestal by the academics you pursue. They helped you put the pieces things back together. They loved and accepted you regardless of your performance.

The only person valentines day is not about, is you. Though valentines day is supposed to be about someone else, ultimately we wind up focusing on ourselves. We may concern ourselves with whether or not we will be anyone else’s valentine. We concern ourselves with how other people will receive the gifts we give them on this special day; whether they will really appreciate the thought and effort that went into the gift you gave them. Or perhaps we will not be grateful for the gratitude that is shown to us because they did not give us a gift, their gift wasn’t what we wanted, or even because we think that the gift does not signify the importance of the relationship.

If you are bitter, jealous, angry, or sad today, take a moment to step back from your perception of the world and think about what it looks like to others. What does your brother consider loving? How does your mother feel appreciated? What really shows your peers, co-workers, or mentors what they mean to you? The real take home is asking yourself, “What does this person perceive as loving and how can I do that?” I don’t do this as often as I should, it can be really hard—emotionally draining in fact—not to mention it takes a great deal of vulnerability.

Love everybody. Does this seem a bit disingenuous? We tend to ascribe value to things based on scarcity. If a lot of people love someone, however, that person in return only loves a few, it really means something to be loved by that individual because they only share it with a few. On the other hand, if a lot of people love someone, and in return they love everyone back, their love is considered as less valuable. I find myself attempting to place a value on the relationship I share with someone based on how much support I receive, how often we talk, or even how much we are alike… but the reality is every relationship is different. You can’t really compare your relationship between you and your mother and you and your best friend. There is nothing for you to measure the value of the relationship against. We should show everyone how much we love or care about them—no matter what.

Love in a way that they can see. If you asked a thousand people what love is, you might get a thousand different answers; everyone has their unique take on things. We tend to forget that we as a people are different. We don’t all share the same definitions, values, beliefs or passions. We all have our differences, and it is out of those differences that our  world is built. Love them in a way that really connects and shows your understanding about them. Take their interests into account, as well as yours, blending together a unique flavor of love.

So as you go about today, remember to show gratitude to everyone in a way that they can see.

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Lead On: A Life Worth Living

Lead OnI just got back from a leadership conference put on by the students of Region III in the National Indoor Recreation Sports Association (NIRSA) and let me tell you, it was thrilling.  I almost didn’t make it here though. The only reason I learned about this conference was because I started training to be a student manager at the Student Activity Center (SAC).

I received an email about a conference coming up and there was an informational meeting. The conference was called Lead On, so I figured it might be something I would enjoy (being a leadership minor and all). I attended the meeting a little unsure about what it might be, but after hearing the significant role these conferences have played in peoples lives, I decided I had to go.  Fortunately enough for me, I was awarded a scholarship that covered the cost of the conference, so I could save some money while still being able to attend this conference.

Our Keynote speaker was brilliant. He was a storyteller, engaging us in the experience of past, telling us about his mentor and the great learning experience he had, sharing the challenges he faced growing up and—most importantly—the impact sports had on his life. He started off, and after a few formalities he said, “The real world is a lot like a sports team. Through sports we learn how to lose, not blame others, be humble, and  never give up (I cannot stress enough importance on these few words). I hold a record at my school that has never been broken,” he says with a sure laugh. Of course we’re all curious to hear about what it is that his impressive feat is; what has he remained undefeated in—all strong leaders are great at something. I was poised on the edge of my seat, hanging on for the words that followed. “I hold the record for the most games played, 88, and least goals scored—zero.” We all enjoyed a hearty laugh, helping to break down the tension between the speaker and audience. What a great way to remind us that he is not awesome at everything he does. He made several other excellent points. Knowledge that can be applied to anyone, in any position of leadership, at any point in life; here they are:

  1. Sport is education. At first I thought I heard him wrong, then I realized that I had heard him right. He spoke about the way we can learn through sports about various character traits such as integrity, hard work, and leadership. These are not just values you use on the field, but values you carry with you throughout your life.
  2. Assistants make suggestions, coaches make decisions. In athletics there are coaches and assistant coaches. Assistant coaches typically specialize in area in order to give good advice to the coach, enabling him to make the best decisions; these are only suggestions. Ultimately a coach must make the decision and live with the consequences. In a way, we are our own coach. We alone must make the final decision and live up to the consequence. Surround yourself with mentors, people who inspire, and those you wish to learn from (assistants), but you alone must make your mind.
  3. Your values will outlast you. If all you care about is winning, or rather do not care at all about winning, the game is simple. You will cheat to win or you will be satisfied with the status quo. But when you desire to win and play with integrity and honesty, that is truly difficult.  “There is no disgrace in losing, only losing Disgracefully.” There is no shame in failing when life is lived  with passion and integrity. The truth is what you value will come out on the court, whatever you truly value will be shown by your actions.
  4. What will people say about you when you have passed away? What are the things that people will share at your funeral? How will you be remembered?
    -Think about that for a moment. Will they say how they were impressed with how much money you had, the trips you took, the material possessions you had? No. They will remember you for who you were.
  5. Work Hard. Support your teammates. Always, always, always work hard. No matter where you are at and what you are doing. Give everything you have and give it all to the people that you are with. We often forget about our teammates in life, yet, they remain there. Parents, teachers, siblings, friends, these people are your teammates in life. They help you accomplish your goals. Support them and do what you can to help them.
  6. Whenever things go well, give credit to everyone else. It feels good to get praise. Heck, I’ll be the first to admit I love getting some accolades even if all I did was a small part in the greater picture. We all love to be recognized for our accomplishments, and as a leader our job is so important that it doesn’t need to be recognized. If you’re a great leader, you will get more praise than you deserve, so share it with those around you who deserve it.
  7. Take the heat when things go bad. Your first reaction may be to jump back from a fire or some dangerous criticism, but what if you knew your subordinate was right there? You would jump in front and protect them. Just as you might protect someone from harm in a physical situation, it is also a leader’s responsibility to protect them when things go wrong in the work place. Because the truth is, if they made a mistake it is a mistake your decisions allowed.
  8. Listen and be true. Listen to your followers—players, teammates, coworkers—with an open heart. Give them your full attention. Look them in the eyes, sit there, and just listen. Care about what they have to say. And just when you think they’ve finished, wait 10 seconds; they just might have one more thing. Listening is crucial because you need to show your followers that you care. If you don’t care about them, they wont care about how they perform for you.
  9. Trust your instincts. We are all faced with decisions in which we feel we know what is right, but may not make the right choice. When I was thinking about signing up to come to Lead On I felt as though I knew I should go, but I didn’t want to spend the money. Thankfully I caved and signed up (and got a scholarship).
  10. Confront others in person, don’t talk behind their back. If you tell someone they are doing a good job, you should mean it. Don’t tell them they are doing a good job then speak with the other players, workers, or followers as if you had never said that. Your credibility will be diminished greatly. Not only will the person who finds out feel hurt and unable to trust you anymore, but the other group members will know you are dishonest as well.
  11. Stay focused. As a leader focus is the key the of opportunity. Without focus, it will not matter how hard working you are, how much you listen, how much credit you spread, etc.. You must have a vision that you come back to,  a constant reminder of your goals and the commitment you have made. No matter what happens, you come back to your vision and take steps to make it happen. Keep your focus.
  12. “The minute your people quit bringing their problems to you is the minute you stop being their leader.” When people take their problems somewhere else, they stop looking up to you (or don’t think you care). As a leader we need to encourage followers to bring their problems to us. This helps show that you care about them and your desire to be a part of their life.


I had never gone to a professional conference before. I was a bit nervous to go too, but it fired me up as a leader and was a great experience.
What are the great experiences that you need to take advantage of in your life that you might be a little hesitant to commit to?

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Platonic Relationships

(This post is co-written by Luke Dehart and myself)

Growing up I was not your typical boy. I didn’t like to spit, wasn’t interested in sports, nor did I adapt many of the habits other boys did at my age. Not to say I didn’t have male friends, I did, but in a group setting it just seemed so much easier to fit in with girls. I think there were a few reasons for this, the big one being emotionally availability. In small groups at church there is this feeling of expectation, a pressure to share. But when I was in groups of women because of the perceived gender difference it was expected that I be “the tough guy”, allowing me to safely remain emotionally closed off in attempts to protect myself.

They did not ask about how my life was, where my spiritual journey was, or if I was experiencing any difficulties—perhaps because they didn’t think I would respond— feelings are supposed to be discussed with other men, not women.

In church we tend to polarize guy-girl relationships. If we talk to a member of the opposite sex about feelings, we should only do so in pursuing a romantic relationship (with the goal of marriage). If we are hanging out with too many girls, we may be called flirtatious and told to get more guy friends.

Shouldn’t women be able to trust the men that are in their life to be supportive? I think we can do better at this — I can do better at this — Platonic relationships are tricky. Because men and women were created different, communicating effectively and making sure you are on the same page is no easy task.

If you’re interested in having platonic relationships, then there are some guidelines/rules that  you might find helpful. Maintain a safe emotional distance between the other person by deciding not to talk about breakups, romantic interests, or whatever it is that might stir up feelings and jeopardize  the [platonic] relationship.

When platonic relationships bloom, they can be a truly beautiful and beneficial thing, but, how do you know whether or not you should pursue a platonic relationship with some one? Below are some thoughts that may help guide your decision.

  1. Belief: Can men and women be friends? You first have to believe it is possible. It wont matter what I tell you, because what you believe, you will.
  2. Reason: Why do you want to be friends?  Are you are trying to fulfill an unmet desire for intimacy? I suggest you to fulfill that need elsewhere or else you might find yourself in a one-sided friendship. Forming a friendship with someone you work with is a logical reason.
  3. Circumstance: Do you have class, athletics, service, work, or some other point of contact? Your shared circumstances serve as a starting point for the relationship. If the relationship itself is the focus, chances are feelings will develop.
  4. Accountability: It’s important in all areas of our lives, however, having it is crucial that you are accountable if you plan on being in (or maintaining) a platonic relationship. Create environment that keeps you accountable to ensure success. Hang out in group settings, always stay in the public eye, and have those (same-sex) friends who call you out if they believe you act inappropriately, never hang out alone.
  5. History: Have you been friends? Were you romantically involved at one point in time? If so how has your friendship changed, developed, and matured?  Have you found yourself wishing for a romantic relationship with this person? It is difficult to form/maintain a platonic relationship with past romance. Time may heal wounds, but it does not wash memories away. Old feelings usually resurface in some form and will have to be dealt with.
  6. Honesty: At some point in time you will have friends of the opposite sex in which feelings start developing and you will have to decide to pursue a deeper relationship or not. If you do decide you would like to date the other person, talk to them about it that way you both are on the same page.. if not, but feelings persist, consider changing the dynamic or stepping back.
  7. Maturity: The biggest problem when it comes to opposite sex friendships (or relationships of any sort) is immaturity. Try to understand why the other person is behaving the way they are. What are they feeling? What has been going on in their life? Use those critical thinking skills that are so often lacking in society, because if you don’t, you probably will end up with a lot of frustration. 

    —If you have friendships that do not line up with the guidelines above, I would seriously recommend re-evaluating those relationships and why you are in them.

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Humility not humiliation.

What if we all strive to make everyone feel welcome in our lives? What if we truly dared to be open and transparent, how would that change us? How would the world see us? More importantly, how would that change the world? These are the questions I think about… but today, I want to focus on just one, what if we build others up with our words?

As a Christian, I know my actions will influence the way other people  see Christ. Because when we dare to call ourselves followers of Christ other people believe us, regardless of our actions. However, it is our actions that people use to discern who is trustworthy, honest, fun, genuine, hardworking, generous, and empathetic. Just because I am a Christian does not mean all these things magically come to me.As a human I have a sin nature, a natural love for that which is sinful and displeasing to God. It takes hard work to develop the right habits and change my attitude to keep moving forward—but it can be done. People can and do change—regardless if you see—the way they live their lives.

So why am I writing about this? I’m writing about this because our culture sees disrespect as a weapon to wield, to break down their opponents, using their shattered remains to build upon their foundation of confidence.

This a story answers that question:

Anna is five years old, running up the playground steps when she sees other kids playing a game of tag, she gets excited at the thought of being able to play with them and make friends (because when you’re 5 everyone you meet can be your friend)! She asks the boy who was it, lets call him Ron, if she can join. “You can join, but you have to be it first.” Anna quickly accepted the offer to play, as she was full of excitement and a new challenge. But her excitement soon turned into apprehension as Anna quickly realized that she was the only girl playing in this game of tag, and the other boys were a grade older and much quicker than she anticipated. They soon began to ridicule her calling her slowpoke, telling her she should just quit, and even suggesting that boys are better than girls. After a few minutes of not being able to catch anyone, Anna ran over to her mother crying and looking for comfort.

Today is the first day of high school for Ron. He’s been looking forward to this ever since he was in the 6th grade and after his reign on the playground as the most athletic 8th grader he was excited to move on. Although, part of his reign as the most athletic had to do with constantly belittling his peers and using coercive tactics, he thought nothing of it. But after a couple weeks of high school, Ron was sorely disappointed with the way things went. He was no longer the big man and his monopoly on athleticism had dissolved. There were a lot of other kids who were faster, stronger, and even smarter than Ron was; soon he found himself on the other end of the spectrum. In gym class he was bullied and pushed around, told he was stupid, slow, and worthless (much of the same things he spread in his middle school years). As a result he became bitter and hated school. He hated the prospect of learning, it was pointless wasn’t it? He didn’t want anything the hierarchy which he used to be on top of. He thought of suicide at times, struggling to cope with the bullying and the anxiety that it caused.

People told him college would be different, so he held out in hopes that it would be. It was, a bit. The difference was that some people had grown mature and made decisions to become successful. Not as many people were tearing each other apart trying to build themselves up. He met some particular people, in fact, who seemed to do quite the opposite. They were building people up. Ron will call this group of people his friends. After hanging around them so often, Ron found his anxiety disappear as he no longer feared being bullied or rendered socially inadequate. He became confident and open to new things and ideas. After about a year he asked one of the men, Jim, why they were all so different.

“Well” Jim said, “in short the reason I am different is because of someone I met many years ago. This man challenged me to look at my life and what I was living for. He asked me if I was satisfied with what I was doing—I wasn’t. He told me that someone had something better for me. He said that Jesus had something. An accepting love that would wash away all of my past failures.” Jim paused for a moment, looking down then over at Ron shaking his head as if he did not believe the words he was about to say, yet he was grinning ear to hear. “I didn’t believe him at first, so he invited me to his church; I went. After thinking about the message that was shared that Sunday morning—living a purpose filled life—I realized I didn’t have a reason to live.” He paused again as to reinforce the importance of the words he was saying. “Later that afternoon, I called the man who had invited me to church and asked him how to become saved and we prayed together right then and there on the phone.”

Jim looked up towards the sky, it was a bright sunny autumn day. The leaves were changing and a cool Michigan breeze rolled off the water. “That moment my life was changed.” With a brief look of confusion and interest Ron asked, “What do you mean your life was changed?”.
“Up until that moment my life was all about me. I did whatever it took to build myself up, it didn’t matter if I had to break other people down and humiliate them—it was all about me.” He looked down a little; you could hear the regret in his voice. “Because I found God and his love I was changed. I saw that when we were struggling in life we were called to build each other up, encourage one another, and help lift each others burdens. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it.”  -Ron accepted Christ as his savior that day.


What do you think? “Pfft… It’s just a story, life isn’t like that.” You’re right, this is just a story, the truth is, anything can happen. God can choose to work through us in many ways, ways beyond our wildest dreams! The question is are you living in a way that God would choose to use you? Either your life does look like this or it doesn’t. Either you routinely build others up with your words or you tear them down. Build others up. I can’t count the number of times I see people put down others in order to build themselves up and create some sense of security. It is sickening. What’s worse? How often this happens among Christians. People who claim to follow a loving God, yet are still breaking other people apart to build themselves up.

Do you build others up or do you tear them down? Are you known for your encouraging words, or do people laugh and expect your criticism? Do you dare to call yourself a Christ follower? Live like it and you might be surprised at just how much God does through you.

How could living differently change the world? What if every Christian lived to build others up and share Christ’s love?